May 24, 2007

Shadow Hearts: From the New World

So I ended up not playing Shadow Hearts: From the New World because Luna played through the entire thing. Which isn't too bad, since it turns out to be a lot like the previous Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It's basically the same engine and in a lot of ways the same characters too, with a sort of simliar storyline. I think the fact all the characters are the same is a real turn off, although I really did like the new world look set in the Americas. She wanted to do everything and get all the items, including get both endings, which meant a final playing time of over 90 hours.

The reason I say all the characters are the same is because the skill sets and even some of the combat mechanisms and special abilities are the exact same. The initial protagonist, Johnny, carries a camera just like Anastasia. Although Johnny isn't all the strong at magic or fighting, so he actually isn't a great character to use for most of the game, but you have to keep him in the party to use the camera. Shania is this chapter's Yuri. Frank is Joachim (even down to the silliness and weird way of walking). Hilda is also like Joachim because she transforms into different attack modes depending on use. Ricardo is Lucia, except with a stupid guitar-weapon. Natan is like Karin, but not as interesting or important. And instead of a wolf (Blanca) now we have Mao (a giant talking cat) that doesn't have wolf bouts but instead tries to make a movie by fighting other giant talking cats.

Graphically, things are basically the same since it's the same engine, but with some minor improvements. Bodies and faces are smoother, with better polygon integration. Especially during movement. You won't see clipping or tearing. Motion capture also seems more natural. I really liked the initial look of the backgrounds because they're much more colorful and natural looking than the dark look of the previous games. So much so that I didn't feel the gothic vibe at first, and in fact I don't think this game has as strong a gothic vibe.

The combat system is a little improved as well. Combination attacks are a little more interesting because you can't just perform combos all the time. You have to increase your stock gauge by attacking and being attacked, and then use up a stock unit to combination attack. Performing combo magic requires you to consume two stock units. So first you have to beat on the enemy a little and then attempt combo magic. This usually means only being able to execute combo magic once per boss fight. Also, if there is a combo break, you don't lose the character's turn. The addition of stock is sort of in trade for SP to execute combos.

I didn't like the new Stellar and Stellar Chart magic system though. It made it very hard to assign magic to characters, since you first assign magic into groups (the chart), which has some limitations unless you spend money to improve the chart's flexibility, and then you have to assign the charts to the characters. Since you can't really tell what magic is already on a chart without moving the cursor onto each individual one, it becomes a somewhat labor intensive process. And it's not at all clear if doubling up stellars results in lower cost magic, which was one of the best ways to make magic affordable in Covenant.

Luna liked the game, but thinks it was a little short. It was only one disc, but I don't think it is that short. Luna probably could have finished it faster if she didn't try to find every last item. If you can read Chinese then you can read her entry about it.

Posted by josuah at May 24, 2007 3:49 AM UTC+00:00

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